Let’s talk about one of the original red hot mammas – Miss Sophie Tucker (1884-1966). If I had a spangly frock & feather fascinator, I’d sit down at the piano and do one of her numbers for you.
One of my mother’s favourite songs was My Yiddishe Momme and I realise now that it was Sophie singing it. Mother knew not a schmidish of Yiddish and if her Presbyterian soul had known of Miss Tucker’s saucy vaudeville background, she’d maybe have reconsidered. But that’s where I first heard Sophie Tucker.
Now I have a few 78rpm records of the lady. They’re perfect for mechanical sound – on shellac, it’s like you’re sitting at the nearest table to the bar and Sophie’s perched up there on the mahogany, belting it out.
Her signature number was ‘Some Of These Days’ and I’ve had the pleasure of hearing this 1911 cylinder recording on an original phonograph. What I have is the 1926 version on shellac with Ted Lewis. It’s considerably smoother than the original and I admit I prefer the rawness of the 1911 recording. After all, raw and punchy was what Sophie did best.
The song ‘Oh, You Have No Idea’ is wonderfully funny but naughty – how about that sexy growled ‘Oh’ at the end of each verse?
He’s got that whatsy whatsy what/What people can’t name/And say that whatsy, whatsy what/Would make the wildest woman tame./Hot as fire all the girls agree/Does he spark when he’s out with me/Oh you have no idea.
But it’s Yiddishe Momme that I play again and again. Side one is in English and Sophie wrings every ounce of emotion from it. On the other side, the band plays the song and Sophie speaks the words – in Yiddish. Outstanding.